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Jessie Parris is the landlady of Olive Macketts who is terminally ill and has discharged herself from hospital. It is only when district nurse Nancy Corrigan comes round that the true nature of their relationship is revealed. She was played by Stella Gonet.

Overview[]

Jessie Parris lives with her lodger Olive Macketts who was diagnosed with terminal cancer and discharged herself from hospital against medical advice. The district nurse assigned to her is Nancy Corrigan, Jessie greets Nancy on the doorstep and reveals she had to send for Dr Turner as her lodger was in so much pain. They go up to the bedroom where Olive is panting while in pain which she likens to a knife stabbing her but she is given pain relief. Jessie agrees to go to the pharmacy to get the morphine prescribed at once and Olive says she is lucky to have an obliging lodger.  

Jessie is seen by Dr Turner and Nancy in his car rushing home with the prescription where they talk about how multiple myeloma is one of the most painful cancers there is and as Olive is dying they just have to make sure she doesn’t find herself begging for less time. When Nancy comes round she finds that Olive is keeping on top of her pain saying a certain person is keeping her in line to which Jessie jokes she would be putting her prices up. When Olive needs to use the commode, she shrieks in pain as Jessie listens helplessly on the landing. Out of frustration she bursts into the room and helps Olive onto to commode, saying she is not a nurse but Olive needs her more, and calls her darling and kisses her as Olive sobs.  

When downstairs in the kitchen Nancy explains that Olive's kidneys were failing, she suggests sending her back to hospital but Jessie flatly refuses, she then sighs and sits down and explains her and Olive’s story. They met in the land army during the second world war, Jessie says she had never met anyone like Olive who had spent her entire life in the east end so had never seen a cow or an owl or a cabbage patch. She laughs and says they were both fish out of water but they then realised they were two fish swimming at the same pace, it is then revealed they were never landlady and lodger but in truth a lesbian couple who had spent the last 25 years hiding in plain sight, though the often forget who was the landlady and who was the lodger. She then continues their story, explaining after the war they became teachers, she was a physics teacher and Olive taught children's art, that was why they had prisms in their house, Jessie knew the science and Olive knew they looked beautiful.  

Lesbianism was never illegal like it was with gay men but had Olive and Jessie been found out they would have become treated harshly be social pariahs, the year before in 1967 homosexuality was decriminalised however nothing changed for Olive and Jessie as they never stood to be arrested anyway. Anyway, Olive gets worse and is given oxygen, Jessie shows her picture books of their many happy years together.  

Jessie sits at Olive’s bedside and reminds her of the first time she had a lemon in a gin and it. It was in 1946 and they hadn’t seen lemons for the whole of the war until they were there in a hotel in Margate, that Olive said the lemons made her lips sting so Jessie waited until everyone left and kissed them better. Nurse Trixie Franklin says Jessie was in for a long night and tells her to lie down when tired, everyone knew that Olive wouldn’t last the night.  

Trixie returns and finds a distraught Jessie with Olive who died a few minutes ago, Jessie asks for a shirt in the dresser which was one of their land army uniforms, they only kept one but could never work out who’s it was. Jessie says she would have put a prism in the coffin but there would be no light there. A little bit later Jessie is in shock and is being brought with tea by Nurse Franklin who said that Dr Turner would be round to certify Olive’s death, Nancy comes round to give her a hug. She thanks them for not saying anything, she then thinks that once Olive’s body was taken and everything cleared there would be nothing to show they were there at all.  

Miss Higgins and Nancy discuss what Jessie would but as description of informant, Miss Higgins suggests present at death. Jessie is last seen by Nancy having filled in the death certificate, knowing that she had something that recorded the fact that she was part of Olive’s story and Olive was part of hers.  

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